The 10th annual Gingerbread House Chili Cook-Off and Barn Dance wrapped up Sunday at the Ellis County Expo Center.

Although the weather had an impact on the major fundraiser for the Gingerbread House children’s advocacy center, which serves sexually and or physically abused children of Ellis County, all-in-all, the event was a success, with organizers already making plans for next year.

“We’re just really, really thankful for the Gingerbread House’s support,” NOW Pod head chili pepper Kelly Brignon said. “They are always so gracious and kind. We also want to give a really big thank you to the cooks and the public for coming out, even with the bad weather, to support us and the Gingerbread House.”

Although there were fewer cooks who made it to the event this year, there were enough competitors on hand for points to be awarded toward the international championship in the fall in Terlingua, Texas.

“These were our diehard cooks who got here,” Brignon said. “They wanted to get qualified and they took advantage (of the three-day cook-off). Several of them wrapped up their qualifications for Terlingua.”

The cook-off will return in 2011 – with Brignon saying, “We know next year is going to be great.”

Bernyce Crownover Volunteer of the Year Award

Longtime board member Peggy Atwell was named the inaugural recipient of the Bernyce Crownover Volunteer of the Year Award.

Crownover, who passed away in 2010, also was a longtime board member of the Gingerbread House, and was president when she spearheaded a capital campaign that led to the construction of the center’s offices at Ross and Farley streets.

Atwell and Crownover were friends for many years and, as Atwell recalls, when Crownover was asked by Gingerbread House executive director John Wyckoff if she would join the board, Wyckoff was told yes, but only if he took her best friend too.

It’s hard for Atwell to speak of her friend without tears misting her eyes, but there’s also a smile when she recalls a deep friendship that began when Crownover met her at the chamber, where Atwell first worked as executive director for a realtors’ association before serving as the chamber’s membership director.

Crownover worked with Atwell as a “chamber chief,” accompanying her to ribbon cuttings and other events. Both were married, and they and their husbands enjoyed a standing Friday evening out at College Street Pub among the many joint activities they shared. After J.D. Atwell and then Roy Crownover passed away, the two women continued their fast friendship, devoting themselves in large part to support of the Gingerbread House.

“I’m very humbled and I’m elated,” Atwell said of receiving the award bearing her late best friend’s name. “I don’t feel I’ve done as much as other board members – we all help. It takes a village to do what needs to be done, not just one person.”

Atwell recalled the days and hours she and Crownover would spend in preparation for the annual cook-off and dance.

“She’d call me and say it was a pretty day and ‘Let’s go sell some (raffle) tickets,’ ” Atwell said. “She’s get that pickup and get the mower on its trailer hooked up and we’d meet down at JCPenney’s or the bank in Midlothian.

“We would do this 20 times or more and each time we’d sell from 20 to 30 tickets, if we were lucky. But, if you multiply the number of times we went out by that many tickets each time, we sold a lot of tickets,” Atwell said, chuckling that she and Crownover also used to attend another organization’s fundraiser where they would mingle and sell drawing tickets to their “10-ticket customers.”

“We’d hit them up and they couldn’t get out of it,” Atwell said, smiling at the fun times she and Crownover enjoyed.

“I think about her daily – and still talk to her. We talked with each other every morning until she got sick,” Atwell said, her eyes welling full again as she spoke of her friend, saying, “There will never be another one like her. I had best friends in other towns, but she was just so special. … I just miss her dearly.”

Terlingua champion wins

Tom Dozier of Irving, who won the 2010 Terlingua International Chili Championship, was joking with everyone at Friday’s night cook-off that he hadn’t ever placed with his chili recipe in prior years at the Gingerbread House event.

The former Waxahachie resident’s luck turned during the 10th annual event, however, with his picking up seventh place Friday, fourth place Saturday and taking the first place win Sunday.

Not that he needed the points to qualify for another trip to Terlingua. His 2010 championship qualifies him for life. Still, it was nice to place and win in his hometown.

Cooking chili is a serious hobby for Dozier, who participates in from 35-40 cook-offs each year, traveling across the state. As the international champion, he received a travel budget and most recently went to Mexico to compete. He’s also eyeing several out-of-state competitions.

He’s been cooking chili since April 2008, when he met Kelly and Gary Brignon of Ennis.

“I just got to know them and we became good friends,” he said, saying that friendship led to his joining the NOW Pod and going to cook-offs, culminating with his besting 320 other cooks to take the Terlingua title.

His recipe is available on the Terlingua website – and he’s hearing that others have since used it successfully in competition.

“I’m thinking about using it myself,” he said with a smile before describing his favorite type of chili. “I like it hot and spicy.”

Of competition, he says much of it is simply “luck” as the judges change every round, every competition.

“I just control my chili. I let it do the talking,” he said. “Everybody out here has really good chili – it comes down to good fortune.”

Super Bowl tickets

Super Bowl tickets donated by Vintage Bank to the Gingerbread House and auctioned off during Saturday’s dance were sold via a telephone bid to Green Bay Packers’ fans Pat and Jami Curry of Crawford, who drove up Sunday morning to pick them up en route to the game.

The winners of the drawing were: Susan Noland – John Deer lawnmower, Laurie McPike-Mosley – women’s diamond ring and Stan Fletcher – Dewalt radio/charger and drill.

The weekend’s


Friday CASI

1.    Gary Brignon of Ennis

2.    Dr. Ray Calhoun of Waxahachie

3.    Kelly Brignon of Ennis

4.    Vicki Sanders of Ennis

5.    Dwayne Williams of Nash

6.    Dee Palmer of Mansfield

7.    Tom Dozier of Irving

8.    Ron Baker of Ennis

9.    Dave Lefler of Bardwell

10.    Brandon Garcia of Waxahachie

Friday Show

1.    Dr. Ray Calhoun of Waxahachie

2.    Dee Palmer of Mansfield

Saturday CASI

1.    Courtney Bowden of Ferris

2.    Kelly Brignon of Ennis

3.    Dr. Ray Calhoun of Waxahachie

4.    Tom Dozier of Irving

5.    Mike Rogers of Ennis

6.    Dwayne Williams of Nash

7.    Brandon Garcia of Ennis

8.    Blue Kriska of Ennis

9.    David Lefler of Bardwell

10.    Dee Palmer of Mansfield

Saturday Show

1.    Steve Edmonson of McDade and Mark Ivicic of Round Rock

2.    Shirley Sexton of Dallas

3.    Dee Palmer of Mansfield

Saturday Novice

1.    Regina Burton of Waxahachie

2.    Mikayla Burton of Waxahachie

3.    Brad Braden of Waxahachie

Saturday Beans

1.    Patrick Sullivan of Mansfield

2.    Charles Breeden of Alvarado

3.    Kelly Killingbeck of Euless

Saturday Juniors

1.    Kasey Karney of Irving

2.    Ty Kriska of Ennis

3.    Kelsey Dozier of Irving

4.    Zoe Brignon of Ennis

5.    Jacob Bunch of Waxahachie

6.    Mikayla Burton of Waxahachie

7.    Connor Wyckoff of Palmer and Lydia Livingston of Waxahachie

Saturday Finals Local Celebrity Mechanical Bull Riding


1.    Austin Arms of Ark Country Store – 34.887

2.    Paul Dodson of Ennis Lions Club – 28.316

3.    Corey Allman – 26.816

Others: Jeremy Gordon of the Ellis County and District Attorney’s Office – 19.948, Jeff Hughes of Bat Security System – 25.016, Corey Girman of Vintage Bank – 21, Dr. Matt Bayazitoglu – 14.619, Casey Odom of Boyce Feed and Grain – 25.332, Canyon Wilder of Target – 15.159 and Jeff Nicholson of Foundation of Youth Ministries – 19.983


1.    Rachel Underwood of Ark Country Store – 21.725

2.    Megan Perdue of Vintage Bank – 15.201

3.    Candice Jones of Ark Country Store – 14.739

Others: Ashley Hill of Citizens National Bank – 8.269, Krista Pierce of Ark Country Store – 9.033 and Chelsea McKibbon Langford of Waxahachie Daily Light – 8.723

Sunday CASI

1.    Tom Dozier of Irving

2.    Ron Baker of Ennis

3.    Kelly Brignon of Ennis

4.    Dee Palmer of Mansfield

5.    Kathy Baker of Garland

6.    Sam Roberts of Arlington

7.    Blue Kriska of Ennis

8.    Courtney Bowden of Ferris

9.    Beth Moon of Hurst

10.    Paul Seastrunk of Garland

Sunday Show

1.    Dee Palmer of Mansfield

2.    Dr. Ray Calhoun of Waxahachie

3.    Kelly Brignon of Ennis

Contact JoAnn at or 469-517-1452.